From the Sentinel police blotter for Thursday, January 17 2013:
A 35-year-old man was arrested Tuesday after an officer saw him trying to remove a Specialized bike from a bike rack in a parking garage at 2030 North Pacific Ave., said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
The officer saw Adam Michael Brightwell trying to remove and dismantle a bike that was not his. Brightwell, who said his last address was the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center, was arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools, according to police.
Well done to the Santa Cruz police officer who saw this attempted bike theft as it went down. I think this is something like the fourth Santa Cruz media report of a captured thief over the past couple of months.
There’s some discussion among local bike people who would like to see the Santa Cruz attorney make an example of bike thieves like Mr. Brightwell. I argued that stiffer penalties have almost no deterrent effect on criminal behavior. The better way to deter bike theft is to increase the chances of getting caught. Right now, bike theft is almost risk free in most areas. Bumping up the chances of catching the thief reduces the incidence of that crime, even if the criminal’s only punishment is an overnight stay and an order to appear.
As much as we might like to inflict bodily harm on bike thieves (and on their no-good enablers who purchase stolen goods), research consistently shows that increasing the severity of a punishment does not have much effect on crime, while increasing the certainty of punishment does have a deterrent effect.